Little Eater in the North Market in Columbus sells seasonal vegetables by the scoop. Photo from LittleEater.com.

This Ohio chef was named 1 of the best in the world for veggies -- and her restaurant’s a short drive away

An Ohio restaurant and its chef have scored a coveted spot on a global list of the top 50 restaurants in the world for their excellence in preparing and serving vegetables.

Cara Mangini — cookbook author and owner/founding executive chef of Little Eater, a vegetable-centric restaurant and grocery inside the North Market in downtown Columbus — made the “Plant Forward Global 50” list, joining the likes of Alice Waters, Alain Ducasse and Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

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The list was put together by the Culinary Institute of America — widely considered to be America’s most prestigious culinary school — and EAT, a foundation with a mission of reforming the global food system.

Little Eater’s chef was one of 16 chefs in the U.S. recognized. The list’s creators said Mangini “has been on a mission to put vegetables at the center of the American plate. She makes them fun, delicious, and accessible to all.”

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Mangini also is the author of “The Vegetable Butcher: How to Select, Prep, Slice, Dice, and Masterfully Cook Vegetables from Artichokes to Zucchini”, which was nominated for a James Beard Award and recognized by other cookbook awards in 2017. She came to the Dayton area last August for book-signing events at Books & Co. at The Greene and at Dorothy Lane Market’s Culinary Center adjacent to its Washington Square store.

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Here’s how Mangini described her approach for the Culinary Institute of America and EAT:

“We believe one of life’s simplest, but greatest, pleasures is anticipating the seasons and celebrating vegetables in their prime. We highlight local and organic ingredients with an always-changing menu and an experience designed to connect our guests to every moment of the year.

“We strive to bring everyone to the table around produce-inspired food with focus on flavor and abundance (never sacrifice or obligation). It is our mission to put vegetables in the center of the plate, to honor the work of our farmers and to support the health of our community.”

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When asked by the list’s authors what her advice would be to a young and upcoming chef wanting to move towards plant-forward menu concepts, Mangini replied in part:

“If you want to create a plant-forward concept, get to know vegetables. Consider each case of produce that you wash and break down as an opportunity to understand the ingredient better.”

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“Grow your own garden or work on a farm if you can. Build relationships with farm partners and suppliers who you trust and who possess the same values as you do, then commit to growing together. This relationship is what makes the plant-forward restaurant model sustainable and successful, and connected to the environment and a greater good.”

Little Eater’s restaurant hours in the North Market are Sunday and Monday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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